Review: Intralinks VIA Enterprise Secures Collaboration

Cloud-based Intralinks VIA Enterprise provides a Sync and Share that addresses the data security needs of the enterprise.

By Frank Ohlhorst | Posted Apr 9, 2014
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Sync and Share collaboration isn't always easy for IT managers to enable. In the enterprise, they must balance organizations' dueling needs for productivity and security. Cloud-based Intralinks VIA Enterprise, which combines collaboration tools with document controls and auditing, addresses both problems without significant management overhead or excessive additional product integration.  Intralinks VIA Enterprise reins in the chaos associated with information lifecycle management, a major concern for companies dealing with compliance requirements, privacy concerns and overall data control.

A Closer Look at Intralinks VIA Enterprise V1.6

As a cloud-based service, Intralinks VIA Enterprise needs very little in the way of initial setup and configuration. The browser and Windows, iOS, Android, and Macintosh clients all share a common theme, making it simple to move from one device platform to another.

For the most part, the desktop clients exist to allow end users to work with content while not connected to the Intralinks VIA Enterprise hosted service. They also offer excellent synchronization capabilities, making it a snap to work with content offline without losing provenance or activity logging. The client application automatically synchronizes shared content with a local file cache, allowing those without connectivity to the cloud to work with shared files. Users will likely most frequently use the browser-based application to work with data files, however.

Intralinks created a demo account for me and granted me account administrative privileges so I could add additional users, create work streams (more on that later) and try out the optional integration with Microsoft Outlook. I found the service intuitive. After account setup, I was able to quickly start defining what I wanted to share, and with whom. I was able to quickly add files, set access controls, create workflows, build libraries, invite other collaborators and download files. The browser app appears to use a combination of Ajax and HTML5 techniques to offer the UX of a desktop application.

Delving deeper into Intralinks VIA Enterprise reveals that the service uses a master directory of users and groups, which can be incorporated into a SSO (Single Sign On) methodology, allowing for ease of access to a secure environment. The VIA platform also provides integrated digital rights management (DRM) for complete control of files throughout their entire lifecycle.

Intralinks also supports standalone security assignments, making it simple to add external users to a work stream without having to create an internal account on the business's network. Organizations can collaborate across corporate boundaries without losing any of the metadata associated with a file or document. In fact, this ability to tear down artificial security boundaries without exposing intellectual property to unintended recipients or unauthorized individuals is perhaps one of the most critical capabilities of Intralinks VIA Enterprise. What's more, DRM is fully supported throughout the document lifecycle, as is the concept of "UNsharing" a file.

UNshare removes data from relevant endpoints when users have their access revoked. This enables the removal of data from external partner systems when a project is completed, preventing data leakage and maintaining lifetime control of the information for the owner of the data. The UNshare capability is also a boon to BYOD initiatives, which often require a remote wipe of user devices when users lose them or leave the company.

Effective collaboration demands more than just security, of course. To that end, Intralinks VIA Enterprise provides a plethora of tools and capabilities that are policy-driven and ease the ability to share documents while still incorporating access controls, work flows and historical metadata.

To fully grasp what the product has to offer, one has to understand the concept of a work stream, the term Intralinks uses to describe the access and movement of a file or document. The work streams concept amounts to a managed shared folder, which incorporates routing, control and auditing. For example, files/documents placed into a work stream can be assigned to certain users or groups, each with granular control (read only, read/write, etc.). Those files can be further controlled via white lists, black lists and even expiration dates. If a user does not work with a file by a certain date, access to the file expires. All access is logged and can be reported on at a later date for auditing and compliance purposes.

For those looking to integrate VIA Enterprise into existing systems, Intralinks offers the ability to tie the service into Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft SharePoint. That level of integration eases the use of the service, simply because end users still use the tools they are accustomed to, but with more control of and improved notification about the status of shared items.

For those users seeking to exercise lifecycle control and keep information fully secure, Intralinks VIA offers "Confidential" work streams, which automatically incorporate Information Rights Management (IRM) policies. Users retain drag-and-drop simplicity for sharing (or UNsharing) content while maintaining secure control over the information. IRM can control access to information even if the containing file is removed from a work stream and copied to another location. I have not seen this capability deployed in any other DRM/IRM product, at least with the level of simplicity that Intralinks offers.

Intralinks VIA Enterprise calls to mind a secure Dropbox, but that is a true understatement of what the service offers. Other Sync and Share services, such as Dropbox, Sharefile, Citrix, and Box, command considerable market share, and all offer the basic capabilities that a synchronization and sharing platform should have. However, Intralinks goes much further into the collaboration realm, specifically because of the ideology of work streams, where the full lifecycle of a file can be controlled and reported on.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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